A little photo of my riding group.  Left to right, Paul Church, me, and Mark Bass.

Well, after a challenging two days in some incredibly intense summer heat, we did it! Team INVIDI completed the 2023 Tour Alberta for Cancer cycling event. And I’m proud to say our team managed to raise another $8,915 dollars for the Alberta Cancer society, all thanks to our many (many!) generous donors who helped the overall campaign reach a whopping $5,560,000 raised, blowing the doors off the $5,000,000 goal that was set for this year.

I couldn’t be more amazed by my team and the dozens of people who opened up their wallets to contribute. Given the past year of inflation and associated economic uncertainty, it’s truly inspiring to see so many who were willing to offer their support.

And so, first and foremost, a huge thank you to everyone who helped us out along the way.

Of course, I’d also be remiss if I didn’t also give thank our friends and loved ones–my wife, Lenore, in particular!–who supported us along the way. An event like this requires time to train, help getting the word out, and support during and after the event as well, and we couldn’t do this without you.

And one can’t forget all the many many volunteers who helped make the Tour a success. Unless you’re there, it’s hard to understand the sheer logistics involved in putting on event like this, which this year hosted over 1,200 riders. Whether you were feeding us at the pitstops, or handing out water on the side of the road, or providing medical support back in Strathmore, thank you!

And lastly, thank you to all you folks out in the heat on the side of the road cheering us on! You have no idea how great it is to see you out there, hootin’ and hollerin’ and giving us that boost of energy just when we needed it.

Strava tracking from my day 1 ride.  I decided to break away and do the long route, hill and all...

As was the case last year, the Tour offered riders a total of four routes, with each day having a short route (around 70k) and a long route (around 100k), all of which start and end in the staging area, which this year was in Strathmore.

I’ve never personally experienced the Tour when it wasn’t in this format (in the past it was a single route that involved cycling out to a camping area, overnighting there, then cycling back), but personally I think this structure is fantastic, as it makes the event that much more inclusive by giving riders the ability to customize their experience to their comfort level and ability.

When we began day 1, my intention had been to join my fellow rider, Paul, in cycling the shorter route, mostly because the long route involved a rather nasty looking hill climb out, and then a return back over that same hill. Yay!

But, of course, when the decision was imminent, with Paul’s encouragement, I decided to do the painful thing and do the long route.

So how was the hill? First, picturesque! As you approached on the outbound leg, you could see the road curving up the hill ahead of us. I wish I’d taken a photo as it was quite striking. As for the climb itself, only the last outbound section was, to me, truly challenging, while the return was fairly comfortable. And oh boy that coast down the other side was a thing of pure beauty (it was here that I broke my speed record and cracked 60 kph)! Absolutely worth it.

Naturally, when I got back to the staging area I realized I’d completed 98km. Did I do a little ride out to the camping area and back to hit 100? Yes. Yes I did.

Throughout, the heat was challenging, and by the end, oppressive, both from the sun beating down from above and from the blacktop radiating from below. Fortunately, for some reason I found an extra gear during the last 20km or so and was able to push hard to the finish. Between those delightful downhills and that final push, I ended up achieving an average pace that was as good as any I’ve done!

Strava tracking from my day 2 ride.  Paul and I both did the gruelling 116km long route.

Day 2 of the tour presented us with a much flatter route that took us south and west of Strathmore, with the long route a whopping 116km! Now, for someone not used to cycling long distances, you might think that extra 16km doesn’t seem like much. But assuming a solid 25kph pace (which, at the end of a long ride, would be quite a feat), that’s an additional 40 minutes in the saddle, and I assure you, at that point in a ride, that 40 minutes feels like 4 hours!

And so, when the day began, while we toyed with the idea of doing the long route, we remained undecided.

The first quarter of the ride gave us reason for optimism by presenting us with a brisk tailwind, a gentle downhill, and packs of riders to draft behind. I haven’t looked at the numbers, but I’d estimate we were averaging around 28kph during this phase of the ride and I know I was feeling pretty darn confident!

At the first pitstop in Carseland we were greeted by my personal cheer squad, as my wife Lenore and my sister Rheanne (who happens to live in Carseland!) sat out on a corner and waved and clapped! Then, after some food and a quick visit, we were back on the road.

Only to encounter a mild-to-moderate headwind that would plague us for most of the ride.

Until you’ve experienced it, I don’t think you can really understand the mental and physical difficulty of riding out on the open road in the prairies straight into an unrelenting headwind. When we traveled west, that wind hit us from the front-right. Traveling north? Head on. Traveling east? Well, of course it turned and came at us from the front-left. It wasn’t until the final 10km that the wind gave us a minor push up that final rise into Strathmore.

But, despite that headwind, at the lunch stop we resolved to complete the long route1, and so, just as the sun intensified and the heat started to build, we took that right turn and pushed on to an eventual 116km finish.

I’m not going to lie, the rest of the ride was an absolute grind. The headwinds and lingering tiredness from the day before meant a slow, plodding pace that had us in the saddle for well over 5 hours. Couple those factors with the heat and it took all of our stamina to get to that finish line.

But, we did it! And I couldn’t be more proud of what Paul and I achieved!

In the end, the event was every bit as amazing, this year, as it was last. Knowing that I was able to do my part to contribute to the Alberta Cancer society was incredibly rewarding. And there is something absolutely magical about being out there, on the road, riding with so many others as you all work toward the same goal.

Did that mean I signed up for the 2024 ride? Yes! Yes I did!

I can only hope that next year I can find as much support as I did this year.

  1. I have to admit, I miscalculated here. I had assumed we’d get more of a tailwind during the last third of the ride. Between that and the elevation profile, which showed a gentle but steady downhill for most of the back half, I assumed the ride would finish easy. I was definitely wrong about that!